Speak with a licensed sales agent
1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, Monday to Friday

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period vs. Open Enrollment

Medicare enrollment periods can get confusing, especially the ones with similar names. Read on to better understand the difference between the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and Open Enrollment.

Open Enrollment vs. Annual Enrollment

A major difficulty with these two enrollment periods is the difference between the official titles and what they’re commonly called. Let’s start with the official designations.

Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

This enrollment period occurs from January 1 through March 31 each year. Individuals who are currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans may make one change to their enrollment, either changing to another Medicare Advantage Plan or returning to Original Medicare. This enrollment period was officially reinstated in 2019.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period occurs from October 15 through December 7 each year. Medicare beneficiaries may enroll in or drop Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans during this period, securing their health plan for the following calendar year. This enrollment period directly follows the delivery of Annual Notice of Change Letters and the release of information regarding Medicare plans for the following year.

Alternative Names for the Annual Enrollment Period

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is also sometimes referred to as the “Annual Election Period” or simply “open enrollment.” For many individuals coming into Medicare from the health insurance marketplace, a fall “open enrollment” period to select coverage for the next year will seem very familiar.

Because of these similar names, it’s useful to ask about the specific dates or rules of an enrollment period when you’re not sure which one is being referenced.

Other Enrollment Periods

There are two other major Medicare enrollment periods.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The Initial Enrollment Period occurs when you first become eligible for Medicare at age 65. Your IEP begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month of your birthday, and concludes three months after your birthday.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs)

Special Enrollment Periods are triggered by special circumstances, such as moving, losing coverage, and being dual eligible. They don’t align with specific dates, but instead occur for specific periods of time relative to the triggering circumstance. For example, a Special Enrollment Period might be open for two months after you move.

Help With Medicare Enrollment is Here

You don’t have to struggle with Medicare enrollment on your own. Our Medicare Advocates are available for no-cost personal consultations during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and all year long. We’re here to assist you in finding, comparing, and enrolling in the right Medicare plan. Just call 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday.

If you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, try the Medicare Online Enrollment Portal. Just enter your zip code to compare Medicare Advantage Plans in your area and easily enroll in the plan of your choice.